April 2018

April is usually pretty drab; not spring yet, but not winter anymore, either. There are still piles of dirty snow here and there in shady corners.  But spring is definitely on the way.  Snowdrops, spring snowflakes,  and  crocuses are out in full bloom.I usually take two walks a day, to try to clear my mind, relax and get some exercise.  No more than a mile or about a half hour, depending on the weather and how I feel.  A ways down the road, they’ve cut a few trees for a house lot.  A big white pine was taken down, and I thought I’d share this picture of sapwood ( it’s pine pitch, oozing out of the sapwood).Woodworkers, especially FWW readers,  love April.  Again this year we had FWW Live at Southbridge, MA.  We all had a great time.  It was well organized, interesting and most informative.  It’s always a time to re-connect with other woodworkers, friends, fellow editors, and the staff of FWW.What a crew!  Great people, all. This years keynote speaker was Peter Galbert, chair-maker extraordinaire.  For a young kid, he sure know what he’s doing.  What a  wonderful talk and slide show he put on.  I was severely impressed.

My two courses were on wood movement.  My favorite axe to grind!  I started with the basics, wood tech 101, then on to water and wood, predicting movement for any given wood, any time of year.  Finally, how it all relates to solid wood furniture construction. I brought my little teaching cabinet, completely disassembled, and put it all back together, explaining how to account for wood movement for each step in the process. Oh yes, there were things to make in the shop.  Another round table.  In keeping with the wood movement theme, here is a shot of the underside, showing how the top is attached; anchored in the center, with expansion washers on either side.  the trick of course, is to know where in the slot the screw goes, depending on current and anticipated moisture content.I finally finished the figured maple side table.  Most of it was made from one 12/4 re-sawn plank.  I had to use a different wood for the top and bottom dividers and the back, but the rest is all that nice dark, curly, heartwood.  It looks good with the two drawers.  The drawer fronts are two 3/16″ pieces, re-sawn and book matched, to make the wood go further.As an added note, my dearest got into woodworking this past week.  Made her first spatula.  Rather nice, I must say.  C. H. Becksvoort © 2018

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March 2018

At my age, I should be slowing down, but it’s just not happening.  Instead of fewer things to do, there always seem to be more.  This month was no exception.

First off, it was a real snowy March.  We had two big storms, and one that just grazed us.  Lots of shoveling.  Eventually it will all melt… I hopeA friend in Hawaii sent me a piece of Koa.  I guess that qualifies as a native species, although not North American.  None the less, I wanted to make something from that small pieces.  At 11″, it was not big enough  for a box, but just right for a candle holder.  So I drilled it, added tiger maple feet and stainless steel drip cups.  “Maine Meets Hawaii.”

M.A Stevens-Becksvoort photo.

Incidentally, I just had a new batch of these drip cups made.  Prices have gone up in the last 12 years!   I may make them available at a mere $16. each.  They are really nice, my own design, 1 5/8″ high (4.1 cm) and 2 1/2″ (6.4 cm) diameter.  Brushed stainless steel.  They should be available on the web site in a few weeks.A few months ago, Tom McKenna, editor at FWW, asked me if I wanted to be on “Rough Cut with Fine Woodworking.”  But of course.  Tom McLaughlin, the host,  stopped by my shop twice to make plans for the show.  We decided on the ring lamp as a suitable project.  Tom is amazing, in addition to being a nice guy. He mapped out every step, cut all the parts and made all the arrangements.  I showed up at his shop a day early, and we went over the entire procedure.  The next day the film crew and the folks from WGBH in Boston showed up and we got busy building a lamp.  We shot from 10 in the morning  until 6 that evening , and got the lamp done, finished, wired and lit!  A lot of effort for a 26 minute show.  Great fun, especially working with such a group of professionals.This is Tom McLaughlin’s shop in New Hampshire.  I don’t have new clamps like that.  The lamp frame is in the foreground.  Tom came up with a slick way of cutting the veneer for the rings:  capture them between two pieces of plywood, and run them by the router table with a straight bearing bit. The glued up rings came out perfectly.Oh, and by the way, I still had a few things to make in the shop.  Got to keep the orders going out the door and pay the bills.  I made a 40″ (102 cm) round table, two high stools and four chairs.  The backs of the chairs are steam bent, band sawn, and shaped with a draw knife, before sanding.  Maybe one day, I’ll leave the draw knife facets.  That would be kind of cool.I had to buy a whole cow (hide) for the seats, and took them to my upholsterer, who did a wonderful job.  Everything came together well, got oiled, and assembled and will go out next week to Florida.  Those are my old Hartford clamps in the background.Time to celebrate!  That’s great figure  on the table top… and wonderful Scotch.I received lots of positive feed back last month when I mentioned my current reading.   So this month I’ve looked through the bookcase in the shop and come up with two favorite woodworking books: Der Möbel Bau is a fantastic resource.  Even if you can’t read German, it’s full of a plethora of detailed illustrations.  However, knowing German does help. Some of the joints illustrated are pretty interesting.

The second book is mostly for inspiration:Danish Chairs, has photos of  chairs by the well known, as well as the lesser known designers. No need to wonder where my Haystack chair designs originated.   I love it.  Book recommendations could become a regular thing.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2018


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February 2018

Yet another month has slipped away, much too fast.  Probably because we’re 2 or 3  days short in February.  In any event, we’ve started the freeze-thaw cycle early.  Maple sap buckets are out, the sap run dependent on freezing nights and warm days, which also makes for a messy driving on our dirt road.  I suspect that mud time will be going on for several weeks.  However, we’ve also have had our share of snow. The days are getting longer, and the sun brighter.  Spring is on the way.  Which always means that it’s time to start seedlings.  The first that I plant are onions, leeks, and parsley.Tomatoes , four varieties, will be planted  mid-March, along with marigolds, and basil.  Everything else will be direct seeded in late April, early May.

In the shop, I finished the corner cabinet; oiled figured cherry with walnut knobs.  It was delivered locally, and we had to cut the baseboard and slide the cabinet in from above.  Here it is while still in my workshop.We also had another FWW photo shoot.  Two articles in a single day.  Talk about efficiency!  First up was a new out feed table for my saw.  When I got my SawStop years ago, I kept the old out feed table.  The miter gauge slots didn’t line up, and it was a bit smaller than I wanted.  The new one is full width.

The second article was a Shaker berry box (sometimes used as a small sewing basket as well), white pine with 1/8″ finger joints.  The shoot went well, while the only issue we ran into was bending the handle.  I usually use green or soaked air dried wood, but getting it bent and set in a short span of time was a challenge.  So I made a form, taped & tied the handle to it, crossed my fingers and popped it into the microwave. I tried about 5 or six bursts of 30 seconds each, with 3 or 4 minute cooling off between each .  It worked, and the green tape held fast.  Of course the magazine photos will be much better.  Be on the look out.While digging around in the attic of the shop, I decided to sell the antique library card catalog unit that I’ve had stored there for decades.  It’s dark oak, 52″ high, 32″ wide and 16″ deep.  Five section of 10 drawers each.  $1,600. for the entire unit, or $400, for each of the 5 sections. Pick up here in New Gloucester, ME.Last Sunday we had a good snowfall, and I had nothing planned.  I’d also run out of library books.  So I went upstairs to the pile of books on my side of the bed to dig through old favorites, and found Blue Highways, by William Least Heat Moon.  It’s a trip around the USA in a small van, taking only back roads, and meeting a variety of interesting people. I’ve only read it about 3 times, but it never ceases to amaze, and each time I read it I discover something I missed the last time.    Positive and most enjoyable.

Next up in the shop is a set of four chairs, two stools and a round table.  Monday I drove up to Lewiston to buy a cow.  Just the hide actually, 60 square feet of beautiful black leather.  That and the seat blanks are off to the upholsterer, while I build the chairs and stools.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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January 2018

Like a fresh coating of snow, the new year always holds endless possibilities.  January was quite a mix of weather, from extreme cold, to snow, rain, ice, and more snow.The garden shed in the early morning, just before sunrise.  Along the road, at the end of the driveway, the first rays of the sun highlight my sign.

A few days later, the fresh snow is coated with ice, after a rainstorm and sudden freeze.  Spectacular to look at, but no fun to walk or drive  on.

Again, a busy month.  The schedule is beginning to fill up well into next summer.  Word has leaked out that I’m no longer teaching, and thinking about retirement.  I’ve been over occupied so far, between keeping the driveway clear, an un-welcomed run-in with a router, playing chief cook, bottle-washer and chauffeur, continuous revisions on the forthcoming book, I actually did get to spend time in the shop.  Finished up a few odds and ends, and sent a few goodies out. The only project I managed to complete was a small bookcase, dovetailed, adjustable shelves, and frame & panel back.

At coffee break, with one of my favorite Elizabeth Louden mugs. I think of the designs as stylized trees.  Love the color.  The finished piece turned out quite well, and was delivered today.

I also had a request for a few Shaker knobs, which I’m not to keen on making, but do on occasion.  For years I lugged this sample board with me to shows.  Now I hide it in a wall cupboard in the showroom, so as not to encourage any more knob orders.  There is nothing quite as exciting  as standing at the lathe all morning, turning out 28 identical knobs, knowing they are not going onto a piece of my furniture.

Once in a while I get a cute cut-off, and this one looks like a miniature square.  Could be used as such, but went into the firewood pile instead.

However, most of the month was taken up by a cherry corner cupboard. It’s  fun piece to build, so I thought I’d take a few in-process shots.  The corner cupboard is one of the rare pieces I actually make a full scale cross sectional drawing of, since there are so many odd angles and locking, mating pieces.  The two opposite front face frames  are a challenge to glue up at 22 1/2° each.Notice the green tape.  I gave up on the weeny blue tape years ago.  You stretch it over a sharp edge and it breaks. The green tape, on the other hand, takes an amazing amount of tension, even on a freshly milled 90° edge.  I lay both pieces, (cut from the same board) side by side and tape them.  Flip them over, glue the joints, fold and tape.  A perfect joint, no clamps required. Don’t bother trying this with blue tape.Next, the two face frames are attached to the top, middle shelf and bottom.  Looks more like a boat hull than a piece of furniture.  It’s a bit fragile at this point, but once the two long sides are on, it stiffens right up. The sides are trimmed at 45°, to let the actual back bypass the two sides.  It’s virtually impossible to clamp a 45° corner without smashing it, so a band-sawn cut-out is called for.With the back in place, the end looks something like this.  Except for the narrow pieces of the face frame, all other parts are dadoed to capture the shelves on five edges.All that’s left is the three horizontal face frame members, top molding, a wood door on the bottom, and a glass door on the top.  Oh yes, and sanding and oil.  With three more days, or less snow and a better behaved router, it would have been finished.  Something to look forward to in the February blog.

C.H. Becksvoort © 2018

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December 2017

Again, the last month of the years.  My sixth year of shop blogs, having missed only three months in all that time.  I try to keep up to date.  Like every year, it’s had its ups and downs.  We lost a few very close friends, I managed to keep the business afloat for the 34th year, and got the new, yet untitled book off to the Lost Art Press.  Designed a few new pieces, and made a load of old favorites.

Winter came early to Maine this year.  It snowed for real on December 9.  In all we’ve had close to 24″ (61 cm) this month.  The landing in the front of the shop is about 30″ (76 cm) off the ground.  And it’s been beastly cold, so far down to -18° F (-28°C), and likely to remain that way well into 2018.  Just as a side note, the heat pump in the shop has worked admirably for several years.  However, it will only extract heat from the air to about -13°F (-25°C), so on the last several mornings it’s been right chilly.  Once the temperature rises, it kicks in again and works overtime.  I still have the wood stove.

The Weekend at Tandem Glass was a real thrill and a success.  I set up in the corner between to the window,  and Peg’s display of cards, and photos.IMG_0015.jpgNotice the big white lamp shade.  Charlie Jenkins blew a similar one for the next lamp.  Terrill outdid him with a bright red shade with little orange spots.  Now I’ll have to make two more arms for their showroom. The first lamp found a home this week.


Shop work this month included the usual last minute Christmas presents.  And I made a set of needle point trestles, a first.  Two adjustable stands onto which a needlepoint frame is clamped. 

I also made another adjustable music stand.  It was promised, and completed before Christmas, but missed the last delivery to DC, so it will show up first thing in 2018.  Some things I have no control over.  The upper section slides on a full length dovetail groove, adjustable by means of an ebony violin peg, with machine screw epoxied into the knob.


That’s it for this year.  Looking forward to the new book next summer, and hopefully the Lie-Nielsen DVD we shot in August 2016.


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November 2017

Every month is a new challenge… some good, some not so good.  This November was no exception.   We had quite the windstorm at the end of October.  I didn’t realize the damage it had done until I took the dog through the woods in early November.  We had about 16 large trees either uprooted, or snapped off. These white pines are 14″ to 18″ in diameter.

Many of the paths and logging roads were blocked.  It looks like a good bit of chainsaw work this winter.

I did get the garden pretty much cleaned up.  There are still a few leeks standing, but the winter squash and carrots are all stored away. Yes, those are cherry planer shavings on the paths.IMG_9334

I also put away the flower pots.  They now take up an entire shelf in the woodshed.  With all the plastic out there, I’m reluctant to toss those nice clay flower pots.  And the head of the funny man?  It winds up in various pots or garden beds, traveling year to year.  You saw him in the geraniums, July ’17.

Our first snow was November 13, a pittance, but enough to indicate that winter is definitely on the way.

The good news is that the book is finally done, and off to the Lost Art Press.  First I sent it Dropbox as requested.  It took over 6 hours to download, and then scrambled all the chapters, photos and captions.   I downloaded the whole thing on a backup drive, which took three minutes, then sent it off by USPS.  It arrived intact, everything was in the correct order.  I think one of the highlights of the whole book writing  process was the photo of a Shaker chair, left-over from days gone by.  I finally put a finish on the cherry, and asked  Br. Arnold at Sabbathday Lake to weave the seat.  He chose the most fitting 5/8″ flame patterned tape. (M. A. Becksvoort photo)

In the shop I made a few thank you projects, a few tealights, and started two swivel- arm wall lamps.  The first, straight arm made of tiger maple, with a really neat swirly orange striped glass shade.  Dennis Griggs photo.

The second one is a curved cherry arm, three parts splined, plus the base.  A bit tricky to glue up, but worth the effort.


(Dennis Griggs photos) The cord goes through the base, and along a groove in the top of the arm.  This one also had a glass globe, a milky white onion shape.  The two shades are made by Tandem Glass, where I will be showing December 2 and 9.  Both Saturdays are FUNdraisers for the Maine Craft Association and the Good Shepard Food Bank.  Do stop by if you happen to be in Dresden, mid coast Maine.  There will be several other craftspeople, music, beer, and wood-fired pizza.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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October 2017

October is my favorite month.  Not only because it’s my birth month, but many other reasons;  the fall colors, the cooler air, no bugs, and its sweater and turtleneck time again.  There’s nothing like wandering through the woods with the dog, enjoying the colors, smells, and the crisp air.   We’re truly lucky here in Maine. IMG_9322

October was also  another busy month, yet very little happened in the shop.  First, there was Maine Craft Weekend.  Each year it gets better.  We had close to 60 visitors over the course of two days.  Many familiar faces, and many new ones, some from close by others from out of state.  I sold quite a few tools that had been collecting in the shop, but had not been put to proper use.  A few are left for the next sale.

And, the Friends of the Shakers had their annual work day  on October 28.  I started out cleaning windows.  Ever looked at 200 year old glass? 

Then I spent a few hours  raking leaves.  Not that much fun, but there was a whole crew of willing folks.  Lunch on work day is always a treat at the Shaker village.  Great food and wonderful desserts.  After lunch, I spent 2 hours cutting brush with one other person.  This was the same area we cut 3 years ago.  It had all grown back.   We left a pile 6′ high and  about 18′ long.

The better part of the month was spent on the yet unnamed book.  I finally got all the writing done, and found a willing and talented artist to do the drawings.  We spent a morning at the Sabbathday Lake Shaker village taking photos.  Leslie at the Hancock Shaker village   sent me several wonderful photos and Jerry at the Shaker  Museum  at Mt. Lebanon   also sent a great shots, all of which will be included.  Between research, writing, and organizing, my desk was a confused mess.

Hopefully the whole package will depart in a week or two, on its way to Lost Art Press.  There, Chris, John, and Megan, as well a a few other talented souls will turn a small hard drive into a book for all to enjoy.  Give or take a year.  Stay tuned.

C. H. Becksvoort © 2017

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